Disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of killing his wife and son after a multi-week double murder trial culminated in just a few hours of jury deliberations.
Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh, 54, killed his wife Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22, on their rural Colleton County property back in June 2021 to distract from his financial woes after he stole millions from legal clients.
He pleaded not guilty in 2022, and his defense countered that the investigation was poorly conducted and evidence was misrepresented amid eagerness to convict him for the murders.
Found guilty of the two murders and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, Murdaugh now faces 30 years to life in prison for each of the murder charges. He’s set to be sentenced Friday morning.
Here’s what to know about the trial ahead of sentencing:
What happened at the kennels
Murdaugh told authorities he returned to his Colleton County home in June 2021 after a visit with his ailing mother to find his wife and son dead outside dog kennels on the property.
Investigators said Maggie Murdaugh was shot four or five times with a rifle, and Paul Murdaugh was shot twice with a shotgun.
Murdaugh has consistently denied that he committed the murders, but admitted during the trial to lying initially to investigators about when he last saw his family alive, conceding that he was with his wife and son at the kennels shortly before he left to visit his mother.
He reportedly blamed the lie, which he kept up for nearly two years, on opioid addiction.
Jurors made a rare visit on Wednesday to the Murdaugh estate where the two murders took place to get a three-dimensional picture of the crime scene.
Murdaugh’s shifting stories are key
Murdaugh’s shifting narrative of the fateful June 2021 night was central to the prosecution’s argument.
In the wake of the killings, Murdaugh told investigators that he had not been near the kennels prior to discovering the bodies of his wife and son that night.
However, a video recovered from Paul Murdaugh’s phone appeared to place Alex Murdaugh at the kennels with his wife and son shortly before 9 p.m. Several minutes later, both victims’ phones stopped being used.
While he admitted to lying to investigators about his whereabouts shortly after taking the stand last week, he has maintained that he did not kill his family members.
Prosecutors pointed to Murdaugh’s inconsistency in stories in their closing argument, claiming that they “corroborated that he’s a liar.”
“He corroborated the fact that he doesn’t tell the truth,” prosecutor John Meadors said, per CNN. “You don’t lie and misremember being at the scene of a murder when you said you weren’t even there, or being at the scene where your family was brutally murdered. You don’t lie about that.”
“That’s not a mistake,” Meadors added.
Murdaugh testifies in his own defense
Alex Murdaugh took the witness stand during trial to testify in his own defense, a move legal experts noted as risky.
He admitted in court to lying to police and confessed to stealing funds from his legal clients — but continued to assert he had nothing to do with the deaths of his wife and son.
On top of the murder and weapons charges in the current case, Alex Murdaugh faces some 100 charges of financial and other crimes, most of which were brought beforehand, including tax evasion and money laundering.
Lack of physical evidence
Physical evidence brought forth in the Alex Murdaugh case and trial was lacking. Notably, the shotgun and rifle allegedly used in the killings were not found.
Defense attorneys drew attention to what they said was a shoddy investigation, arguing that investigators didn’t properly collect blood and fingerprint evidence.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, pieced together their case with witness testimony, telephone calls and other evidence.
Jurors replaced; trial briefly interrupted
The judge overseeing the case, Clifton Newman, excused a juror from the 12-person panel just before closing arguments on Thursday over allegations that she’d talked about the trial with people outside of the courtroom.
Asked if she’d left anything behind in the jury room, the juror responded that she’d need to retrieve a purse, a bottle of water and a dozen eggs.
Five jurors had to be replaced throughout the six-week trial.
NBC News also reported that the trial was put on pause temporarily and the courtroom was evacuated after a bomb threat was called into the Colleton County Courthouse early last month.
The jury began deliberations on Thursday and reached a guilty verdict on all counts just hours later, by 8 p.m. that evening.
Julia Shapero contributed reporting.